Title: The Ligature [Chapter 1/?]

Author: Applegoo (me)

Pairing: Eric/Alan

Rating: PG-13 (subject to change)

Summary: Alan and Eric's first assignment.

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters.

Authors Notes: Writing about characters that don't have official information to base yourself on is really, really hard. I tried to embed their personality that I fished from the musical into this fanfic, I just hope no OOCness shined through it all… this isn't simple at all!

Twenty-four. There were twenty-four souls that needed to be collected today. Eric flicked his thumb across the stack of paper, resenting the overtime that was undoubtedly awaiting him. Not that this was any different from these passed few days where William had started loading heavy work schedules to most of his subordinates.

"Mr. Eric," came the authoritarian voice, "I must speak with you."

Eric raised his head, the sudden hope of there being a mistake in his work schedule scratching the surface of his mind. William stood in the doorframe of the office, the light bouncing off of his glasses in strict demeanors.

"A few of the required souls for today appear to be somewhat troublesome cases. You might need some extra help getting the job done, that's why I would very much like for you to bring Mr. Humphries with you today… it will serve as good field training for him, seeing as he hasn't had many occasions to be active outside the office yet, and it might even shorten your work load for the day."

From behind William walked in a smaller man in stature, a modest look hooked on his face, his suit neatly outlining his thin silhouette. Eric hadn't even noticed his presence, William's imposing frame (and perhaps his constraining aura) worked completely against this new guy's very being.

After a polite bow, the smaller man looked up at his new tutor. "Pleased to meet you, my name is Alan Humphries. Please look after me for today," he said very formally.

Eric awkwardly acknowledged him. "Please to meet you… err… it's fine if I call you «Alan», right?"

The professionalism of his new co-worker made him look like a slob. Eric wasn't the formal type, he was the I'll-deal-with-it-in-my-own-way type. He didn't expect ever having to share work with someone else. He didn't really rejoice in the thought of sharing work with someone else either. But, perhaps, was it better for him to accept his new partner as a way of getting off his shift early.

"Well then," William resumed, "I'll let you handle the rest. I figure that a short briefing on today's matter should not take too long, so I would like you to come and see me in my office before you leave for the day, Mr. Eric."

Eric frowned slightly; he hadn't done anything wrong. And now wasn't exactly the time for promotions either. "What for?"

"Personal matter. Please remember to come by, it's important."

With these last words, William left their sight and there stood the two shinigami facing each other through a long unrequited silence.

Eric took a moment to examine Alan from head to toe and felt out of place when he realized how his own loose tie hung from his nape and how his shirt wasn't even properly buttoned up. So much for setting the example to the newbie. Alan, on the other hand, didn't seem to care or notice and smiled courteously at Eric in return.

"So… I hear that there's going to be a lot of reaping today. I promise I'll do everything not to get in your way, Mr. Slingby."

"You can call me «Eric», I don't really like being called by my last name."

Alan nodded softly. "Okay. Eric."

With that being said, Eric started reviewing the list of souls that needed to be collected for the day and established their itinerary as well as their plan of action. Alan laid an attentive ear to the rather hazardous decisions made by his partner, thinking it was better for him not to question the multiple issues involved in Eric's way of accomplishing work. They were heading to the field as a duo, so if things got hectic once they were at the location, he'd just have to rely on the older shinigami since he seemed to be the type to improvise with what was thrown his way.

Picking up their death scythes, they headed out of Eric's office, Alan tagging along closely behind his partner. As they strolled down the hall, Eric turned the opposite corner to where the exit was.

"What are you doing?" Alan asked.

"William asked me to drop by his office before heading out. It probably won't take long so you can just sit and wait for me here."

Alan's face paled a little bit. "Oh, that," he said and laughed nervously. "You know, you don't have to go and see him."

"Huh?"

"I mean, he just wanted to tell you about… about the death scythe surprise examination that would be held really soon," Alan stuttered.

"What? How come you're aware of that?"

Alan shuffled his feet, his gaze adverting Eric's. "Well, he's been slipping the message to the shinigami who needed to get their blades sharpened. I guess he just didn't want his division subordinates to look bad," the younger man explained slowly. "I was one of them," he added quickly.

Eric paused. "Maybe I should just go check with him, just to make sure there wasn't anything el-"

"No!" Alan yelped. "I mean, if we hurry, we can stop by the workshop and get our scythes sharpened nicely. Let's not waste any time, now, shall we, Mr. Slingby?"

"Call me «Eric»!"

With a swift movement of arm, Alan tugged at Eric's sleeve and dragged him outside. Eric finally obliged and followed, thinking that perhaps it would be a good thing to have his scythe checked and fixed before the surprise examination. He smiled inwardly at how William's cold nature held back a rather soft and caring personality.

{~~~}

The reaping, on that day, went by smoothly and efficiently. Unlike what Eric expected, Alan was very disciplined and didn't seem all that alienated by being out in the field instead of behind paperwork. It wasn't like Eric to get attached to working with someone in particular, but as the end of the soul list grew closer, the dominant thought that he could get used to working with Alan framed his mind.

He liked the way Alan adapted himself to his working style, for it was obvious the younger shinigami prone meticulously organized working schemes over Eric's improvised methods. Maybe Alan was a little bit like William. Except for the part where it was much more easier to hang around him. Alan seemed somewhat of a fragile person, considering his soft complexion and his porcelain skin, but under those feminine traits, Alan was a very humble and strong person and after only a few hours spent together, he was a friend.

"William said you had very few field experiences," Eric mentioned as they were jumping from rooftops to rooftops. "He lied, didn't he? You've done this for some time."

"No, he didn't lie. I've been out on the field only a couple of times and then he stopped assigning me these tasks. Instead, he dropped me in the filing department and only recently did he decide on letting me go do more field work."

"How come he doesn't send you more often? You're probably more skilled than half of the shinigami reaping out there."

Alan smiled and shrugged. "Maybe I'm better off staying inside."

Eric frowned slightly, not understanding the statement fully.

They halted their race at the top of a church, and Eric fished the soul list from his pocket.

"There're only two souls left to collect," Eric noted. "One which is South-West from here, the other one is a little bit more to the East."

"Then we'll be done sooner than expected," Alan stated, probably happy at himself for lightening his new partner's job. "How about we split the job and each head in our own direction to get it over with as fast as we can? Then we can have a coffee and head back to headquarters."

"I don't know, I told William I'd keep an eye on you for the day. I don't want something to happen and then have to explain why we split on our last reaping."

Alan grimaced. "William worries too much. You said it yourself, didn't you? You said that I would be fine on my own."

"I didn't say that, I said-"

"I'll buy you coffee if you let me do this," Alan smiled.

Eric took a moment to think it through, a bitter feeling creeping into his mind. For some reason, the thought of letting Alan head out on his own left him somewhat perplex. But then again, maybe he was acting overprotective over his new partner. "Fine," he finally said. "Let's meet back here in twenty minutes. You head East, I'll take care of the other one."

Alan's smile deepened, making something twitch inside Eric's chest. "Yes, let's gather back here once we're done."

They parted, each heading their way. It didn't take long for Alan to spot the man he had to track down. A middle-aged man by the name of Benjamin was his target; the man would get ambushed by some thieves, get stabbed and bleed to death. Alan pinched his lips at the poor way of dying. Even as a shinigami, he had never fully understood how to detach himself from the victims he encountered day after day and their disgraceful way of leaving the livings' realm.

The sun was starting to settle and only a few minutes were left before the man's imminent passing. Alan used the growing shadows as a way to trail him safely from behind, following the man as he snaked between the narrow streets of London. As expected, once he had turned the dreadful corner of a back alley, Alan heard some muffled sounds and sooner than later, five men ran out of the alley holding Benjamin's belongings. This was his cue.

He sighted, pushed back his glasses on the bridge of his nose, and stepped into the back alley where Benjamin was laying against a wall, thick dark red liquid pooling around him like a leaking tub. Without much option, Alan raised his scythe, swinging the blade skillfully until… until he dropped it abruptly.

He clasped a fist at his chest before his knees gave out, his mouth wide open but no sound coming out. Silently echoing the pain chorusing through his heart and lungs, the wretched shinigami curled on himself and gritted his teeth, hating on his curse, hating on himself. He screwed his eyes shut, attempting anything and everything to block the ache out, but to no avail. The crawling throb was pulsing through his entire being like some vile, incessant heart failure, an unstoppable plague that ragged his body to some useless shell.

Through blurred vision, Alan gazed upon the red that was reaching him, but he couldn't tell whether the blood was his or Benjamin's. He wished he knew. He also wished the attack would've happened after he had finished his task.

{~~~}

From the moment Alan wasn't in his view anymore, something serious had sunk in Eric's stomach. He first tried to brush it off as nothing more than paranoia, but it still drove him to get his job done as quickly as he could. He finished viewing his soul's cinematic record (often wishing for a fast forward option) and rapidly dashed away to go see if Alan's assignment had gone well.

As expected, he got back to the church's roof first. He waited impatiently for his partner to come back, scrutinizing the horizon from left to right. Reaping the soul Alan was assigned shouldn't have taken such a long time. When the meeting time passed, Eric's face paled dramatically. He didn't waste a minute and headed out in the direction of Alan's victim.

As Eric jumped over the numerous streets, he scanned the grounds in hope of spotting Alan returning from his accomplished mission. Tormenting questions kept nagging his concentration and he wondered when was the last time he had felt this way. After a few minutes (that felt like hours), there was still no sign of Alan. It became even more troublesome when darkness covered the city. London at night wasn't the place to be, especially if you were looking for someone specific.

Eric considered his options and jumped off the roof on which he had been standing. As he landed on the empty street, he debated whether or not it would be wise to start calling out Alan's name. But he'd get in trouble for that. He'd get in trouble for yelling in the middle of the night while standing in the heart of town, and he'd get in even more trouble if William found out. A mad race through the puzzling streets of London ensued, until Eric finally smelt something distinctly familiar. Blood.

He sprinted to the next back alley that didn't provide much lighting and was coldly welcome by a horrid view solely illuminated by the moon's glow. Down on the ground laid the carcass of what was probably Alan's target, and next to him, folded in two, the small shinigami whimpered.

"Alan, Alan!" Eric spoke as he kneeled next to his partner, covering an arm over his shoulder blades. "Are you hurt? What's wrong? What-"

It was hard to say if Alan was even aware of Eric's presence. His face, buried into his knees, wasn't very visible. His hands were tightly pressed to his chest as if he was scared his heart would fall from his ribs while his glasses had slipped from his nose and were carelessly lying close to the also discarded scythe. The only reply he emitted came through the form of a strangled weep.

"Alan, what happened? Answer me, damn it!" He pulled his friend up. Alan's eyes were out of focus, his mind probably jinxed just as much. "Let's get back home," Eric mumbled, fearing things would get worse if they stayed here any longer. He slowly picked up his friend and carefully managed to hold the suffering shinigami properly along with the dropped scythe and glasses.

"Just… hold on, Alan," Eric said out loud, the words of encouragement mostly for himself.

I don't know if I like the fic. But I like the pairing. Which is KILLING me. I haven't written anything in a long time, and I don't consider myself an amazing writer either. So please criticize, criticize and, oh yeah, CRITICIZE. I want to get better at writing. Feel free to point out all the mistakes/incoherencies I made as well. I'll fix them.

It took me a good 30 minutes to find a decent title. I ended up calling it "The Ligature" for many reasons. I like to see Eric and Alan like scattered pages that each have their own stories. Their own different, yet very similar stories. But they are both incomplete until you bind these page in one book. Then you get another story that meshes a little bit too nicely together. Like their theme songs morphing into a soft polyphonic lullaby at the end. This is "The Ligature".

I'm a slow writer, but I'll do my best to write Chapter 2 in a decent amount of time. Bear with me!